When Sable’s sister goes missing, disappearing into a private BDSM community, there’s only one man to whom she can turn. Julian is a Dom and a celebrity on the scene, and he’s willing to help, but on his terms. Sable will pretend to be his sub, and they’ll enter the community together to search for Sabrina. She’s desperate to find her sister, but isn’t interested in the lifestyle. She’s drawn to Julian, and the attraction is mutual, but how can there be a future for them when they both want such different things? She’s not magically going to become the perfect submissive, and Julian won’t want to give up being a Dom. When they find Sabrina, that should be the end of their affair, but will either be able to walk away by then?
Considering what the building housed, it was a lot more normal than Sable had expected. Feeling more than a hint of trepidation, she walked to the entrance to enter. It was like stepping into another world. A foreign, strange, alien world that looked painful and bewildering. What did people get out of this?
Sable eyed the leather and vinyl costumes in one section as she slipped past, thinking they were hot—not in a sexually attractive way, but imagining how much one must sweat inside them. Her eyes widened when she came upon a hood with a zipper for the mouth and no other openings. It baffled her that people voluntarily submitted to having something like that put on them, taken off only at another person’s discretion.
With a small shudder, she bypassed a selection of crops on a handsome mahogany stand. As she walked past the whips, she couldn’t resist reaching out to touch one of the strips, finding it soft and supple. It could probably still do a lot of damage in the wrong hands.
Finally, she navigated her way through the BDSM products barring her way, until she arrived at the front counter. To her surprise, Julian Talos himself was working the counter. Her research had led her to think he wasn’t often so hands-on with the customer side of his business, and she was relieved not to have to try to track him down.
Head bent, he was focusing on something, giving her a moment to observe him discreetly. His hair was longer than she remembered it, secured at the back of his neck in a black leather band that contrasted nicely with the pale blond locks. Had he been that tall and solidly built the previous time she’d met him? Maybe, but she hadn’t paid much attention. She was paying attention now. To her surprise, he wasn’t in some outrageous bondage costume; instead wearing a white button-down shirt and black pants.
“Have you seen enough?” he asked without looking up.
Heat bloomed in her cheeks at being caught, and she forced herself to cross the remaining distance to the counter. “Julian Talos?” She caught her breath when he looked up, caught off-guard by the unusual deep lavender shade of his eyes. Purple eyes were easy to acquire via contacts, but something about this man suggested he wasn’t one to hide behind artifice. He’d worn sunglasses on their previous meeting, so she had no basis for comparison.
His chiseled lips curved at the edges, but that was his only change of expression. “Yes. Who are you?”
Sable licked her lips, suddenly nervous. “You probably don’t remember me, but we met once.”
He nodded, looking bored. “I see. Was it on the scene? Maybe at a convention?” At her head shake, he asked, “What can I do for you, Ms.—”
“Sable Collins.” Ingrained manners had her extending her hand, and she could see the hint of amusement in his eyes when he took it. She tried to ignore the spark of electricity that seemed to singe her at his touch. “We met a couple of years ago, when you were dating my sister.”
“I’m afraid I don’t remember you.”
She nodded. “We only met once. I was picking up Sabrina.”
Julian’s eyes narrowed. “Sabrina Sparrow?”
Sable nodded. “That’s her stage name. Her real name is Sabrina Collins.”
He smiled, and the change was breathtaking. “I remember Sabrina, but we never dated.”
She frowned. “Sabrina introduced you as her date.” Julian put away the papers he’d been examining before leaning a bit closer to her. She had to struggle not to step back instinctively.
“She was uncomfortable with you knowing the truth.” He chuckled softly. “Believe me, I was as surprised as you when she said I was her date.”
“What were you then? A one-night fling?” She tried to keep the disapproval from her tone, not wanting to alienate the one man who might be able to help her, but it was difficult. Her sister would have been twenty-one then, and a naïve twenty-one at that. She guessed Julian must be in his late thirties, so definitely old enough to know it was sleazy to seduce a girl her age.
Julian shook his head. “I was her director, as in a movie.”
Sable frowned. “Why wouldn’t she tell me?”
“It was a bondage movie, Ms. Collins. When she talked to me the next day, she gave me the impression you wouldn’t approve of her decision to participate.”
Sable sagged slightly. “Yeah, she was right.” Her eyes narrowed. “It must have been you who got her into all this nonsense.”
Mouth tight, he said, “Wrong again. It was her first adult film, but she came to me via her boyfriend, who was in a couple of scenes. I don’t know the details of their private life, but he seemed like her Master, and they had a good rapport, with a lot of trust.”
She couldn’t hold back a small snort. “Master? Trust?” Shaking her head, she glared at him. “This is all crazy.”
“Why are you here, Ms. Collins?” His eyes gleamed with a hint of irritation. “You clearly don’t have a genuine interest in the lifestyle.”
“No, I won’t deny that.” Taking a deep breath, she plunged into the sordid tale. “Sabrina told me about a year ago that she was a submissive. I tried to make her see reason, but she was convinced she was happy bowing and scraping to someone.”
“Perhaps she was.”
Trying to hide her distaste, she shrugged. “Maybe. It seemed fairly harmless, as long as it was still a fantasy. I knew she had a membership to some prison club.”
“Dungeon,” he corrected with just a trace of a laugh.
“Whatever. A few months ago, she told me she’d met a wonderful man and had accepted him as her Master.” She grimaced. “I was worried about her, but I couldn’t convince her to slow down. Six weeks ago, she told me she had entered into a contract to be his slave.” Sable shuddered. “Slavery. What the hell is wrong with her?”
He wore a serious expression. “Some submissives enjoy having someone assume complete responsibility for their needs. It makes them feel free.”
“Hmm.” It seemed wiser not to show more of her opinion on the subject. “It was crazy. She gave away her possessions, sold her apartment and car, and stopped taking modeling and acting jobs.” Sable frowned, remembering how buoyant her sister had been as she’d dismantled her entire life. “She even left her dog with me. Sable loves Sparkles more than anything in the world, except maybe me. Sobbing her heart out, she actually left her.”
“I suppose it had to be done, and she’d decided to entrust herself to her Master’s care.” Julian shrugged. “What do you want from me? Are you looking for a psychological explanation, or more information on the finer workings of top and bottom relationships?”
“No, thanks. I have the Internet, you know.” She took another deep breath, trying to control her irritation. “Look, part of the contract included Sabrina being able to contact anyone she chose. She was supposed to retain her own cell phone and email address and be able to freely communicate.” At his nod, she continued. “I heard from her the day after she arrived, but not since then. Her phone number is disconnected, and she hasn’t answered her emails.”
Julian frowned. “Do you know if the contract allowed the Master to suspend her privileges as punishment?”
Sable shrugged. “I have no idea, but I thought about that. It seemed reasonable to assume someone like that would punish a grown woman for following her own mind, but surely it wouldn’t last six weeks? I’m afraid she’s gotten in over her head with someone who isn’t holding up their side of the bargain.”
Julian looked troubled. “I won’t lie to you, Ms. Collins. There are Doms and Dommes who disregard the slave contract in an attempt to truly enslave their partner.”
“Partner?” She snorted. “Sabrina isn’t a partner. She’s being exploited, and the idiot agreed to it.”
His lips thinned. “I’m sure it’s more complicated than that.”
“Whatever.” She waved a hand. “I really don’t care about the dynamics. What I care about is finding my sister. You’re the only person I know who is into this stuff, so I thought you might be able to give me an idea where to look.”
Julian shrugged. “I might. If I can help, I will. Do you know the Master’s name?”
Sable shook her head. “She only called him Master.”
“Do you have any idea where she went?”
“I know it was somewhere in the mountains. Her flight landed in Denver, and I know she called me about six hours after she landed, so I assume it’s somewhere in Colorado? Sabrina told me it was an exclusive community, and she was excited to join it. She said she wouldn’t have to live in fear of others’ judgments.” Sable shifted with discomfort, sure her sister had included her in that group.
Julian’s eyes lightened a bit. “I might be able to help. I’ve heard of a few communities around the country, where Doms and subs live openly, or at least with less need to hide. I’ve never been to one, but I can try to track down some information.”
Sable had to suppress the urge to cry. She was not a weak woman, constantly in tears, but the stress was catching up with her. “Thank you. I’d appreciate that.”
“How can I reach you?”
“Here.” She withdrew a business card. “Call my cell number. I’m staying at The Fairmont.”
Julian took the card, slipping it into the pocket of his black cords. It was completely inappropriate to appreciate the snug fit of his pants in the circumstances. “I’ll make some calls and be in touch as soon as I can. I’ll also let you know if I can’t get any information.”
“Thanks.” A small surge of hope made it possible to stand erect and leave the shop when what she really wanted to do was just collapse in a heap and sleep for twenty-four hours or so. By the time she reached her hotel, the lack of sleep over the past week caught up with her, and she crashed into her bed in one of the bungalows.